The Light that Failed

Notes on Chapter XIII

These notes by Geoffrey Annis are based on those prepared for Vol. V of the ORG, published in 1970. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of The Light that Failed, first published in 1899 and frequently reprinted since.

[Page 206 Heading] this poem, a verse of 4 lines beginning “The sun went down an hour ago”, entitled “Old Song” is not collected separately, but with a verse added, is quoted in “The Lamentable Tale of Willow Wood” (Sussex Vol XXIX). It is not to be confused with “An Old Song”, which appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette, entitled “The Frame and the Picture”, nor with “An Old Song Resung”, better known as “Farewell and Adieu to you, Harwich Ladies” (see the note to Chapter VIII page 135 line 23).
Touching in its simplicity, this single stanza makes effective use of the symbolism of light and darkness, anticipating Dick’s final journey eastward. It is the shortest of the epigraphs, for this important chapter in which Maisie leaves Dick for ever. Its shortness emphasises the finality of the moment.

[Page 206 line 5-6] Vitry-sur-Marne The place east of Paris where Maisie was studying art. (see the note to page 198 line 26).

[Page 207 line 4] Melancolia see the notes to page 148 line 28 and 149 line 8.

[Page 207 line 5] the Salon see the note to Chapter V page 65 line 28.

[Page 207 line 24] cicala also cicada a large insect notable for its unique shrill noise.

[Page 207 line 25] alpaca coat made from the long silky wool of the animal of the same name, related to the llama.

[Page 210 line 27] sable-hair brushes much valued by water-colour artists, because they are good for finesse and fine detail.

[Page 213 line 6] a glorious revenge for France For her defeat in the Franco-German War of 1870-1

[Page 215 line 3] menthol mint camphor from the oils of peppermint; the standard remedy for headaches and neuralgia, before the discovery of Aspirin.

[Page 216 line 33] lead-covered stairs lead sheets were a popular covering to minimise footstep noise and protect wooden stairs from undue wear.

[Page 223 line 21] The queen could do no wrong see the note to page 70 line 13 for repeated uses in the novel of this significant phrase.

[Page 224 line 15] charivari a cacophony or din; a mock serenade originally to newly -weds, using pots, pans etc. French; from Latin caribaria a headache. The humorous London magazine Punch adopted the subtitle The London Charivari in 1841.
seven other devils Matthew 12,45: ‘Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself’.

[Page 224 line 19] Have you fixed your flint to go? refers to flint-lock small arms of the late 17th century. Flint adjustment was required to ensure proper discharge of a weapon. In this context the expression means ‘Have you made arrangements to go?’

[Page 226 line 6] draw you like a badger the sport of badger drawing and badger-baiting were prohibited in Britain about the middle of the 19th century

[Page 227 line 7] Brindisi a port in south-east Italy on the Strait of Otranto. Until the early 20th century, P&O passengers to and from Egypt and farther East often travelled by rail to Brindisi and joined their ship there, so as to shorten their journey and avoid the severe Atlantic weather off the coasts of France and Spain.

[Page 227 line 19] money … in fives and tens bank notes. The main Bank of England issues at this time were £5 and £10 notes.

[Page 227 line 30] consume your own smoke a metaphor from the Public Health Act of 1875 requirements that fireplaces or furnaces should ‘as far as practicable’ consume the smoke they had created. Here the sense is ‘keep your own counsel’.


©Geoffrey Annis 2006 All rights reserved